President Museveni is Uganda’s most popular politician going into the 2016 presidential election, two opinion polls carried out in a space of 12 months by Research World International (RWI) indicate. But a deeper scrutiny of the two polls show that Museveni’s support could be dropping as the election date draws closer.
According to the two opinion polls, Museveni’s support has fallen by nine per cent over the past one year. His current ratings stand at 55 per cent, down from 64 per cent the president recorded in a similar poll last year.
The latest opinion poll was conducted by Research World International (RWI) and funded by NTV Uganda, Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform and Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS).
It sampled 2,230 respondents, randomly selected in 48 districts across the country. Former FDC President Dr Kizza Besigye, the lead opposition contender, trails the president at 17 per cent while former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi ratings stood at 13 per cent.
To political analysts, the figures should worry the ruling party because with Museveni’s downward trend, sustained pressure from the opposition could easily push the 2016 elections into a rerun.
Among the reasons being advanced for the drop in ratings is the fact that about 78 per cent of the polled respondents were in the rural areas, which have previously voted overwhelmingly for the president.
“The NRM should be worried by these results because if their brand, President Museveni, who has been campaigning since the last election, is posting such results. It means that things can get worse,” said Godber Tumushabe, the GLISS executive director, during the launch of the report on August 13.
Tumushabe is also actively involved in The Democratic Alliance, a coalition of opposition and pressure groups working to agree on a single opposition candidate to challenge President Museveni. In his analysis of the results, the pollster, Dr Patrick Wakida, noted that the drop in Museveni’s support is majorly caused by the emergence a new political force in Mbabazi.
“When you track the respondents, you realise that the drop in support is being taken up by Mbabazi,” Wakida said.
Within NRM, about 38 per cent of the respondents indicated that they want change, which could also explain the fall in Museveni’s support. Museveni, however, enjoys 100 per cent name recognition across the country, followed by Besigye at 96 per cent and Mbabazi at 86 per cent.
This gives some insights into why government has previously tried to block the two men from traversing the country to consult with voters. Both Besigye and Mbabazi were arrested on July 9 as they attempted to launch their presidential bids at Kasangati in Wakiso and Mbale respectively.
While Besigye is back on his campaign trail for the FDC presidential flag bearer, Mbabazi is yet to restart his consultative meetings.
“If Mbabazi can get 14 per cent from this poll when he has not campaigned anywhere, his fortunes may shoot up once he gets on the trail,” noted Tumushabe.
Ranked head-on, Museveni scored 57 per cent against Besigye’s 28 per cent, but his scores fall to 54 per cent against Mbabazi whose ratings stood at 22 per cent.
NRM deputy secretary general Richard Todwong, welcomed the report since it confirmed the ruling party’s popularity. But the director of ethics and religious affairs in the office of the President, Rev Canon Aaron Mwesigye, dismissed it as a half-baked report.
“It is as if they did the research to pin a certain candidate; it is half-baked research, it is not balanced, and I think they should do more research with more projected indicators,” he said.
Mwesigye was also not happy with RWI’s sample size of 2,320 respondents.
“It is a small sample which is not representative of the 34 million Ugandans,” he said. “It can’t give a balanced opinion, and then you can’t depend on first time voters; a 17-year-old can’t give a balanced opinion because they have never seen any other president.”
Making comparisons with opinion polls done over the past one year, NRM deputy spokesman Ofwono Opondo said the latest poll should instead worry the opposition.
“This poll is even better because it asked respondents whether they are registered voters and whether they belong to political parties,” Opondo said on Saturday. “If you have 55 per cent of these endorsing Museveni’s candidature, for us that is good enough.”